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BUtterfield 8 (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – April 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812966988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812966985
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #525,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well.” —Ernest Hemingway

From the Inside Flap

A bestseller upon its publication in 1935, BUtterfield 8 was inspired by a news account of the discovery of the body of a beautiful young woman washed up on a Long Island beach. Was it an accident, a murder, a suicide? The circumstances of her death were never resolved, but O?Hara seized upon the tragedy to imagine the woman?s down-and-out life in New York City in the early 1930s.

?O?Hara understood better than any other American writer how class can both reveal and shape character,? Fran Lebowitz writes in her Introduction. With brash honesty and a flair for the unconventional, BUtterfield 8 lays bare the unspoken and often shocking truths that lurked beneath the surface of a society still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression. The result is a masterpiece of American fiction.

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Customer Reviews

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I think the movie's ending is better than the book's ending.
Unique ViewPoint
His style is superb and the ploting is first-rate, which only increases the depth of his description of the depraved of NYC during the start of the Great Depression.
Their dramas, fears, anxieties and joys are just like everybody else's.
A. T. A. Oliveira

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on October 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
In his astoundingly productive career, John O'Hara wrote 402 stories and 14 novels. Reportedly, he drove fellow staffers at The New Yorker to fury because he could sit down at a typewriter and just bang away at the keys nonstop until a finished story rolled out. (These facts come from John Sacret Young's intro to this book.) I've read several of the story collections and a couple of the novels and O'Hara's style is fairly distinctive. He plumbs the faultlines of society where the slumming rich meet with the aspiring poor. His stories are driven by dialogue and crisp, witty, trenchant dialogue at that, much like the hard-boiled private eye novels of Hammett and Chandler. His tone is cynical; his subjects doomed. You get the sense that if he knew a pedestrian was about to be run down in front of him, he wouldn't even turn his head. And after witnessing the accident he'd race to a typewriter to share the ugly scene with his readers. He is a kind of an upscale noir writer, a tony purveyor of pulp fiction.
BUtterfield 8 is a roman a clef (based on a real incident) and you can see why the story appealed to him. On June 8, 1931, the dead body of a young woman named Starr Faithfull--no seriously, her name was Starr Faithfull--was found on Long Beach, Long Island. Subsequent reporting uncovered a life of easy morals and much time spent in speakeasies and such piquant details as her childhood molestation by a former mayor of Boston. Despite rumors of political motives for her murder and a supposed secret diary, no one was ever charged in her death.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By crazyforgems on May 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have enjoyed O'Hara in the past and I had always wanted to read this book. When I saw that Fran Leibowitz wrote the introduction, I thought "it's time."
O'Hara sets the book in the early 1930's in New York City. He focuses his sharp powers of observation on the "speakeasy" class of New York: those individuals with still enough wealth to spend time in illegal bars drinking their worries away. At first, you think "ah, these are the beautiful people." Of course, soon you realize that these individuals are anything but beautiful.
The heroine, or anti-heroine, Gloria, is a beautiful, young woman of loose morals and some inherited wealth. She is smart-we're told she could have gone to Smith-and underneath everything, kind. But sexual abuse early on triggered a rampant promiscuity.
O'Hara specializes in delineating the subtle class differences-the Catholics who went to Yale as opposed to the Wasps-that existed at this time. He structures class systems in his novels as rigidly as any Brahmin.
I would recommend this book for individuals who enjoy contemporary fiction, particularly books set in New York that depict wealthy, beautiful people. (If you like Fitzgerald, you'll like this book.) Both men and women can enjoy this book-as Fran Leibowitz says in her introduction, "it's a young man's book" in many ways.
I would not recommend this book for individuals who dislike "dated" fiction (though this book is surprising fresh in many ways) or books that verge on melodrama.
One note about the Leibowitz's introduction: I found it excellent. She has some acute observations-sex is an animal desire, the perception of it human and changing according to mores in vogue-that have stayed with me.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on May 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
O'Hara, it has been said, writes like you always wish Fitzgerald had actually written. He describes much the same privileged world, but without the chocolate-box sentimentality. His characters are often moral monsters--to themselves as well as others--but they do seem real, as does the New York world of speakeasies and glamorous apartments in 1931 he describes here. His central character, Gloria Wandrous, a beautiful cosmopolitan girl living on her wits and her sex appeal, seems a clear forerunner of Sally Bowles and Holly Golightly, except she is much less madcap and much more tragic. The central action is Gloria's swiping an expensive fur coat from the closets of a married wealthy new Yorker who brought her to his apartment and tore her dress off in order to date-rape her; we are then introduced to a series of characters who will all come together through the chain of events set off by Gloria's taking of the coat. This is a hard book to put down. Though the world it describes is incredibly sordid, it feels like a place you could easily visit and recognize.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. T. A. Oliveira on June 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
Those who have found John O'Hara through "Appointment in Samarra" and simply felt in love with his work -- just like me -- won't be disappointed with his "BUtterfield 8". This time around, this magnificent writer touches the same issues of this debut but from another focus. And this time the protagonist is a girl, Gloria Wandrous.

"BUtterfield 8" was inspired by a real incident. The body of a beautiful and young woman was found in a Long Island beach. Nobody ever knew whether this was an accident, a murder or a suicide. O'Hara ignites from this news to tell this story of a girl who leads an erratic life filled with booze, love and fun. Gloria is this young woman. The writer unveils her existence from the beginning.

In the first paragraphs we meet Gloria in the apartment of a `strange' men -- strange meaning she doesn't know a lot of him. She is alone there and has time to walk around and examine his house. While she does it, O'Hara smartly introduces to his reader not only Gloria but also the apartment's owner, Liggett, is discovered. As the text moves, we can learn about the couple and what had happened that led them to this morning. As Gloria leaves his apartment, she takes something with her. This item will be in the center of the action until the end of the novel.

In the next few paragraphs, O'Hara introduces a couple of characters that however not important to the central narrative, they make an appealing and large mural of the middle upper class in New York City in the 30s. His descriptions are full of life and energy. The form one character run into each other is casual and smart.

As the narrative moves forward, we learn more about Gloria and her friends. But we also discover about Liggett and his family.
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